As one should be able to see from studying the topic of the kingdom, there is a tension between the reality of the kingdom of God already breaking into human history and a future aspect in which we wait for it to fully come. We cannot argue one over the other. We are called to keep both in perspective, lest we form an unhealthy and unbiblical view about the kingdom.
Understanding both sides of the coin shows us that there is tension between two ages:
- This present age (also known as this present evil age)
- The age to come
An age, or aion in Greek, refers to duration or continuance of time. Thus, we could say an age is an indefinite time period. And it is clear that the Bible teaches there are two different ages that are currently in opposition to one another – this present age and the age to come.
Below are some passages that speak of this present age:
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (Galatians 1:3-4)
Below is a passage that speaks of the age to come:
…and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come. (Hebrews 6:5)
Finally, here are some passages that speak of both ages at the same time:
And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32)
19 …and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
From these Scriptures, and many others, we see that there is a tension between the present [evil] age and the age to come. In regards to the presence of these two conflicting ages, Ladd says:
‘The present age is evil, but the Kingdom of God belongs to The Age to Come. The Kingdom of God, both as the perfect manifestation of God’s reign and the realm of completed blessing, belongs to the The Age to Come.’ (The Gospel of the Kingdom)
Yet, there is no doubt that we have seen the age to come break into this present age, as Ladd also remarks:
‘His [Jesus’] mission, as well as His Messiahship, was a “mystery”; it was not to bring the evil Age to its end and inaugurate The Age to Come. It was rather to bring the powers of the future Age to men in the midst of the present evil Age; and this mission involved His death.’ (The Gospel of the Kingdom)
Words like these should strengthen God’s people in knowing that God has brought the powers of the age to come into our midst through the ministry, death and resurrection of Christ and the saving and empowering presence of His Spirit. It’s this truth that can leave us wanting to slightly emphasise the present reign of God over the future and final coming of His reign. But, again, we most hold both in perspective to maintain a healthy and Biblical view.
Click here for my article with discussion around the topic of the kingdom of God being His rule or a realm into which we enter.